OBJECTIVES: To estimate the burden of chronic disease for an elderly Chinese population aged 70 years and over, and to illustrate the use of this information in estimating the economic consequences of disease burden using stroke as an example. PARTICIPANTS: A total of 1902 subjects recruited by random sampling of the old age and disability allowance schemes, which cover over 90% of the Hong Kong elderly population, stratified by sex and five year age groups from age 70 years onwards. METHOD: Information was collected on 10 medical conditions at baseline: arthritis, hypertension, cardiac disease, stroke, chronic obstructive airways disease, peptic ulcer, diabetes mellitus, osteoporotic fracture, malignancy, and dementia. A follow up survey was carried out after 18 months to determine the occurrence of new disease and the number with disease who had died. Disease burden is calculated as the number with disease at baseline plus the number developing new disease minus the number who had died. RESULTS: Disease burden figures were highest for arthritis, hypertension, cardiac disease, and peptic ulcer, and were higher in the 70-79 age group than the 80+ age group for some diseases. For stroke, the economic cost based on a population projection for 2001 was estimated to be around HK$1,900,000,000, or US$250 million. CONCLUSION: Information on the burden of chronic disease is important. It enables the economic consequences to be estimated so that strategies can be developed to prevent diseases with high costs and known effective preventive methods.
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